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Elmo gets coronavirus shot, sparks another Muppet feud with Ted Cruz

Left: Elmo (Sesame Street). Right: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.). (Mark Mann for The Washington Post; Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post/Pool) (Mark Mann/FTWP; Jabin Botsford/Pool/Getty Images)
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Young Muppet Elmo proudly got his coronavirus vaccine, weeks after the United States made the shots widely available for children under 5.

The furry red Sesame Street resident, who has been 3½ years old since 1984, acknowledged in his signature falsetto voice that there was “a little pinch, but it was okay.” His Muppet father, Louie, told Elmo, who was wearing a green bandage on his arm, that he was “super-duper” while getting his shot.

“I had a lot of questions about Elmo getting the covid vaccine. Was it safe? Was it the right decision? I talked to our pediatrician so I could make the right choice,” Louie says to the camera in a clip shared online Tuesday. “I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love,” he adds, before hugging Elmo.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) shared the clip on Twitter — and blasted the popular PBS/HBO children’s show for allowing Elmo to “aggressively advocate for vaccinating children UNDER 5.” He added: “You cite ZERO scientific evidence for this.”

The internet was quickly filled with comments on Cruz vs. Elmo, with one person tweeting: “I’m here for the right-wing meltdown because a puppet got vaccinated.”

The Food and Drug Administration granted emergency-use authorization to coronavirus vaccines for young children this month. It cleared two vaccines — one by Moderna and the other by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech — for smaller doses than adults.

Cruz, along with other Republicans, was seeking more answers from the government before the authorization of the vaccines for children in this age group. The Centers for Disease Control said in announcing its recommendation that the child vaccines have undergone “the most intensive safety monitoring in U.S. history.”

The FDA also said the shots are “safe” and “effective” but added that, along with the CDC, it would put several systems in place to “continually monitor COVID-19 vaccine safety and allow for the timely detection and investigation of potential safety concerns.”

According to the latest data from the American Academy of Pediatrics, more than 13 million child coronavirus cases have been reported since the pandemic began, making up almost 19 percent of all cases — with long-term impacts on children’s health and social well-being.

This isn’t the first time Cruz has had a run-in with a high-profile “Sesame Street” star. He criticized Big Bird last year, when the yellow-feathered creature got his coronavirus shot — a rift that led to a “Saturday Night Live” parody.

“Saturday Night Live” on Nov. 13 parodied “Sesame Street” with “Cruz Street,” as Aidy Bryant’s Cruz welcomed Kyle Mooney as Big Bird to spread misinformation. (Video: Joshua Carroll/The Washington Post)

“My wing is feeling a little sore, but it’ll give my body an extra protective boost that keeps me and others healthy,” Big Bird, age 6, said after his shot. Cruz tweeted that the act was “government propaganda.” President Biden weighed in, tweeting: “Good on ya, @BigBird. Getting vaccinated is the best way to keep your whole neighborhood safe.”

FDA authorizes coronavirus vaccine for young kids

In a statement Tuesday, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind “Sesame Street,” said the public service advertisement featuring Elmo was produced in partnership with the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics. The clip, broadcast in English and in Spanish, is part of a series of resources for parents and caregivers “to answer common questions in age-appropriate ways,” the organization said.

The nonprofit added that almost 5.7 million child cases of covid-19 were reported in the United States in 2022, “making vaccination an important step to protecting both kids and their families,” it said.

Some on Twitter berated Cruz for tweeting about the popular children’s show during the Jan. 6, 2021, House committee’s hearings Tuesday. “Why is a US Senator watching Sesame Street instead of doing his job?” one wrote. During the hearing, former White House official Cassidy Hutchinson revealed explosive details about President Donald Trump’s actions on Jan. 6.

Some parents said the show had inspired their own children: “Thank you, Elmo! My little girl just got her first dose! I’ll share your video too, so she gets all those good vibes you’re sending.”

Others appeared to agree with Cruz. One user said: “I blocked them, It’s gross. No more sesame street for my house.”

Coronavirus vaccines for kids under 5 are finally here

The Emmy-winning American show, beloved by many preschoolers and their families, has been on air since 1969, with popular inhabitants of the neighborhood including Cookie Monster, Grover, and Bert and Ernie. It is now broadcast in more than 150 countries and often features celebrities.

“Many parents understandably have questions about the COVID-19 vaccines for young children, and we want to encourage them to ask questions and seek out information,” Jeanette Betancourt, senior vice president of U.S. social impact at Sesame Workshop, said in a statement.

“With help from Elmo and his dad Louie, we want to model real conversations, encourage parents’ questions, and help children know what to expect,” she added.

U.S. begins vaccinating young children against coronavirus

“Sesame Street” has a long history of taking on social or hot-button issues and political guests.

Among them was Jesse Jackson, who led a group of children to recite the poem “I Am Somebody” in 1971, and Barbara Bush, the first first lady to appear on the show, in 1990 (followed by Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, Michelle Obama and Jill Biden, but not Melania Trump).

Kofi Annan became the first U.N. secretary general to visit the fictional Manhattan street, mediating a dispute between Muppets who all wanted to sing the alphabet song.

During the 2012 presidential election campaign, Republican candidate Mitt Romney sparked headlines when he said that although he liked Big Bird, he would not support continuing the government subsidy to PBS if he were elected president.

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